AAs an elected official, my primary mission is to support legislation that helps everyone in our state realize their own version of the American dream – from those who have recently suffered persecution and apartheid beyond our borders, to Colorado natives like me who were blessed with opportunities from an early age.
But it’s impossible for a person to become the best version of themselves when they’re struggling with their mental health.
That’s the reality here in Colorado, as many lawmakers and mental health experts agree the state is experiencing a mental health crisis. Unfortunately, solving mental health issues is often a more complicated process than solving physical health issues, especially in the American Muslim community.
Much has been written about the mental health crisis sweeping the nation – and rightly so. However, few have focused on the unique experiences of Muslim Americans in this space. Mental Health America, an organization that publishes annual reports on the national mental health landscape, found that “meaningful data on the mental health of American Muslims is not available nationally.”
After 9/11, Muslim Americans remained the target of harassment, discrimination and Islamophobia, which manifested in everything from microaggressions to horrific acts of violence. Nearly a third of Muslim Americans say they have experienced discrimination in healthcare settings, saying they are often excluded or ignored when seeking medical care.
Although a societal stigma against mental health continues to plague all racial and cultural demographics in the United States, Muslim Americans are particularly prone to barriers to cognitive processing. Scarce data on the mental health of Muslim Americans has contributed to a lack of culturally competent mental health care, which means trained psychiatrists can often be unaware of the mental health trends and vulnerabilities witnessed by this community. Unfortunately, this could result in a lower quality of care.
Culture-specific stigma, in addition to societal stigma against Muslim Americans, can also discourage people with symptoms of mental illness from seeking the care they need. Unlike similar physical ailments like a broken bone or a fever, Muslim Americans may be ashamed to admit their mental health issues or view them as a test of faith.
Growing up, I watched my father battle cancer for six years, which silently amassed a million dollar care summary medical bill left for my family in his final days. I live with epilepsy, which also gave me insight into the stigma that comes with living with seizures and the impact it has on mental health. It is because of these lived experiences, and many others, that I am committed to ensuring everything Colorado residents have access to health care that doesn’t come with crippling medical bills. That’s why one of my legislative priorities for reforming Colorado’s outdated health care system is to include mental and behavioral health coverage in all insurance plans and expand access to mental health care. to our most vulnerable populations, including veterans, youth, homeless people and law enforcement. officers.
No patient trying to address their mental health should have to endure overly complicated healthcare processes for months to afford the best treatment for their condition.
This is a problem that cannot be solved with words alone – concrete steps must be taken to remove the tangible barriers that prevent people with pain from getting the care they need. Removing the stigma against treatment will encourage more Coloradans to seek help, but this must be coupled with legislation to ensure the highest and fastest quality of care is in place for those who need it.
Health care is a human right — both physical and mental health care. I invite my colleagues to join my efforts to make mental health care affordable and accessible to the many communities across our state. This will strengthen the bond between doctor and patient while breaking down barriers that stand in the way of the most innovative psychiatric treatments. Now is the time to change.
Representative Iman Jodeh serves District 41 of the Colorado House of Representatives.
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